The American V-8 Supercar Series sponsored by Nitto tires invaded the Autobahn
Country Club in Joliet ,IL. this past weekend (May 21,22) with 23 race cars
primed and ready to run.
This would be the first actual race at the new and beautiful road course just
40 miles southwest of Chicago. This event was run in conjunction with an SVTOA
event organized by Mark Wilson. In addition to the two regular classes, AV8
and Unlimited, this weekend would see the formation of the first ever "R"
Model challenge. This race within a race would be open to all registered "R"
Model Mustangs from 1965 thru 2000. While the first ever race of it's type, it
is hoped that this will be at least a once a year event run in conjunction
with AV8SS at various venues around the country.
The weekend format would be the same as in the past, two 30 minute sprint
races punctuated by a 20-30 minute "pit stop" followed by another 30 minute
While normally the focus would be on the regular AV8 class, this
weekend looked to be shaping up as a showdown between the fastest of the East
against the fastest of the Midwest. Undefeated Lester Lesneski in
his Performance Automotive and Griggs Racing sponsored 2004 Mustang would
finally have some competition from perennially fast guy Jeremy Behrendt in his
Performance Plus, Highland USA sponsored 1999 Mustang. The other heavy hitter
that would play a huge factor would be Midwest terror Chris Griswold in his GV
Machine sponsored 1986 Mustang.
The regular AV8 class would have an interesting twist as Nashville winner
Pete Johns would be seriously tested by Mike Schlickenmeyer driving his
brothers 1993 Mustang sponsored by Griggs Racing, Performance Automotive,
Cobalt brakes and Bath County Collision. One of the Cobra R's would also be a
factor in the AV8 class, that of Fred Fetzer in his beautiful 2000 R model.
Qualifying on Saturday certainly lived up to the hype. In unlimited,
Griswold, Lesneski and Behrendt, would swap positions throughout the session
with each one bettering the other. In the end , Lesneski put in a flyer at the
end of the session to capture the pole on the South course with a blistering
1:34.5. He would be followed by less than a half second by Griswold with
Behrendt close behind. David Morrison, Mike Kryder and Buddy Cisar would round
out the field in unlimited.
The regular AV8 class, the much larger of the two classes, would show a bit
of a surprise with Johns and Schlickenmeyer trading fast laps. In the end,
Schlickenmeyer would prove the quicker with a lap nearly 1.5 seconds clear of
the rest of the field. No doubt we were in for a tremendous battle in both
classes. The rest of the AV8 order would be Fetzer, Brian Groth, Greg
Anderson, John Vickerman, Gene Boccabella, Brian Tone, Barry Kline, Jeff
Henderson and Brion Gluck.
The Cobra "R" field would be comprised of 6 cars, led by Fetzer. The field
was rounded out by Mark Wilson's '93 and new comers Bruce Cameron, Joe
Johnson, Andy Menard, and Lou Groth. Kudos to these gentleman for not being
afraid to use these cars the way they were intended to be used, on the track,
not in climate controlled garage somewhere.
When Sunday dawned, it looked like things might become even more interesting
as rain was in the forecast. As the morning progressed, the skies cleared for
a sunny race starting at 12:50. Due to various mechanical ills, 20 of the
23 cars would make the call to grid. At the drop of the green for the first
race all expectations would be realized. Lesneski would get a nice start but
outside pole sitter Griswold would not be so fortunate as Behrendt would get
tremendous jump to chase Lesneski in the early laps. In AV8, pole sitter
Schlickenmeyer was able to fend off Johns and Fetzer in the early laps. As 20
cars roared around the 2.63 mile circuit, individual battles were brewing
through the field. None of the fights were better than that at the front of
the field. Lesneski and Behrendt had pulled away from the rest of the field at
were putting on a tremendous show. There are few things more exciting tan 2
700 horsepower cars swapping positions every lap. Both cars were consistently
running under their pole qualifying times. The excitement oat the front was
short lived however as just as it looked as if Behrendt was taking control of
the race, Lesneski suffered a driveshaft failure, ending his run. In AV8, the
battle was just as tight with Schlickenmeyer setting the pace until the 10th
circuit when Johns made a spectacular pass at the end of the long back
straight to take the lead and the win by mere 1.1 second at the finish.
Positions 5 through twelve were hotly contested with all of cars swapping
positions throughout the race and being separate by less than 4 seconds at the
checkered flag. In the end, the finishing order would be as follows: Behrendt,
Griswold, Johns, Schlickenmeyer, Morrison, Fetzer, Tone, Kline, Anderson,
Groth, Krider, Vickerman, Cameron, Cisar, Johnson, Menard, Henderson, Lesneski
The 25 minute intermission provided both racers and spectators the
opportunity to catch their breath. Crews were able to refuel the cars and do
any minor maintenance required in the hot pit area. Unfortunately, Lesneski
would be unable to fix his car for the second race.
The start of the second race was just as exciting as the first with Griswold
and Behrendt fighting for position until Behrendt eventually started to pull
away, turning the fastest laps of the weekend, circulating in the low 1:32's!
Griswold was able to give chase until suffering a mechanical problem of his
own and eventually dropping out. In AV8, the battle was much the same as in
the first race with Johns and Schlickenmeyer going at it until Schlickenmeyer
lost 4th gear late in the race, relegating him to 2nd in AV8 and Johns going
on for the double. The amazing thing about the race is that from the 2nd place
finisher to the 14th place finisher the best lap times were all within 1.7
seconds of each other. This made for some tremendous racing throughout the
field, the closest of the year in fact! One of the more interesting races was
between the two R models of Fetzer and Tone with Tone turning in the fastest
lap of the weekend for all R models but Fetzer nipping him at the finish to
win the R model challenge by a scant .481 seconds. This also serves to prove
that the AV8SS formula is working and is a viable concept for the future.
The job of proclaiming overall placing's is one of combining each racers
highest finishes, assigning them a point value and those with the lowest point
total being the highest finishers.
When the math was done, the weekends results would look like this:
AV8---Johns, Schlickenmeyer, Fetzer, Groth, Anderson, Vickerman, Kline,
Unlimited---Behrendt, Morrison, Cisar, Kryder, Griswold, Lesneski.
"R" Model challenge--Fetzer, Tone, Cameron, Johnson, Menard.
Congratulations to all! The total prize money and awards given out at the
awards ceremony was in excess of $4500.00, not including thousands in
contingency monies from various aftermarket manufacturers and suppliers
partnering with AV8SS!
In keeping with past events, AV8SS continued it's association with our
veterans groups by raising over $100.00 with the sale of "Wounded Warrior"
coffee products. We are proud of our association with these groups and hope
more motorsports entities find a way to partner with them as it is a good fit
and a worthwhile cause.
Much thanks to the Autobahn Country Club staff for their excellent work.
Thanks to all AV8SS sponsors and partners, Nitto Tire, Kenny Brown, Griggs,
Steeda, Racer Wholesale, Cobalt Brakes, Amos Publishing, Darkhorse Products,
Grassroots Motorsports, IDCARD Consultants, Mustangs Unlimited, Racetech
Seats, Capitol Motorcars and nutandboltkit.com.
The next event in this exciting series will be at the Beaver Run
complex just outside Pittsburgh, Pa. on August 6th and 7th.